Over the summer, my family spent three weeks on the road, visiting the National Parks. It was absolutely glorious to be off the grid. As we toured the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, we learned a lot about wildfires and the impact they have on the natural habitat, animals, and the local communities.
Often, we think about wildfires as tragic and devastating. Families being forced to evacuate, animals racing for cover and protection, and communities ruined as fires sweep through, and that is truly devastating. In fact, this feels especially true right now as the sky in Colorado Springs where I live is heavy with smoke from wildfires that are raging just hours from us.
But as we drove through Yellowstone, listening to an audio tour of the park, we learned that wildfires are vital to clearing out the forest. As trees and underbrush growth thick and dense, it makes it difficult for animals and humans to find their way, and for sunlight to reach the forest floor. But when fire rages through, it clears out the underbrush and trees, and allows for regrowth and a fully revitalized, and ultimately, healthier forest.
The question that came up for me over and over again was – if everything has been burned, what allows for the regrowth? And as it turns out, there are certain pine cones whose seeds are only released when faced with extremely high heat. For example, when lodgepole pines, the predominant tree in Yellowstone National Park, grow, their cones are tightly sealed by a layer of resin. The seeds are locked tightly inside and only open when exposed to VERY high temperatures, the type of temperatures that fire provides.
So, what does this have to do with business?
Adversity is one of the most powerful forces for growth and change in your business. If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that we get to choose how we respond. We get to choose whether or not we view fire, hardship, and challenge as a growth opportunity. As a way to believe more deeply in ourselves and in our vision for the business. As a way to recommit to the work.
At 2 Smart Girls, we talk often about being the designer of your life and business. Designers face tough decisions and challenges every single day – problems that require them to design solutions that are bound by all sorts of constraints and meet the clients’ needs and wants. Designers don’t run away from the problem or abandon the design because something’s not working. They dig in, ask questions, and get curious because they believe in what they are creating. And that belief fuels and empowers them to show up, respond with grit, courage, and tenacity, and take massive action.
As you confront challenges, as you face the fires that will inevitably come up in your business, here are a few ways to reframe your thinking from disaster to opportunity.
- Fire creates resilience – every challenge we face forces us to navigate the strength of our discipline, commitment, and perseverance. It shapes how we draw on our support system, tackle future challenges, and remain purposeful in the pursuit of our goals.
- Fire allows you to be more creative – When you’re staring into the flames, uncertain what the future will bring, the door to creativity swings wide open. You can draw on your strengths and all the professional capital you bring to the table, as well as your support network, to bring new ideas to life.
- Fire will inevitably come – change, challenge, and adversity are inevitable. When you think of change as a gift that allows you to grow and get better, it’s a game changer.
- Fire forces growth – you can’t walk through fire and remain the same. Success comes not in spite of the challenge but because of it. It creates real confidence because you know what it’s like to walk through it, to survive it, and ultimately thrive because of it.
So, the next time you’re standing in front of the flames, feeling like all hope is lost, remember how the pinecone opens up and is the first to help the forest regrow. Adversity is just the beginning of new life and possibilities for your business.